Measures to combat the new Omicron version of the coronavirus came into force on Tuesday as the prime minister said COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are the best line of defence.
Face coverings are again mandatory in England in shops and settings such as banks, post offices, hairdressers and public transport, while all travelers returning to the UK will have to undergo a PCR test and self-isolate until a negative result is obtained.
All contacts of suspected Omicron cases, regardless of their age or vaccination status, should self-isolate.
The Joint Committee on Immunization and Immunization (JCVI) is now advising that all adults aged 18 to 39 be offered a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in descending order of age groups to increase their level of protection. needed.
People age 40 and older are already eligible for a booster vaccine.
The JCVI said booster doses should be given no earlier than three months after people have received their second dose of the original vaccine — three months away from the current six-month wait.
In further advice, youth 12 to 15 years of age should be offered a second dose of the Pfizer/BioEntech COVID-19 vaccine no earlier than 12 weeks after their first dose.
The NHS said it would soon determine how to expand the staff booster programme.
A spokesman said this would include how booster jabs would be given in order of priority so that the most vulnerable are protected first, as well as increasing the capacity to vaccinate millions more in a short amount of time.
“The NHS will contact you when you are about to book for your life-saving booster vaccination, and when you get a call, it is important that people come forward as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “The measures that take effect today are proportionate and responsible, and will buy us time in the face of this new version.
“Based on what we know, our vaccines and boosters remain our best line of defense, so it is more important than ever that people come forward when they deserve a boost.
“Today’s steps will not only help us slow the spread of the variant, but they will help us protect each other and the benefits we all have worked so hard for.”
The measures in place are described by Number 10 as “temporary and precautionary”, and will be reviewed in three weeks.
England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam told a Downing Street briefing on Monday that the booster campaign “has never been more important than this time”.
Prof Van-Tam said scientists around the world agree that the Omicron variant is of “increased concern”.
He said there is still uncertainty about how transmissible the variant is and its effect on disease severity.
“The number of mutations already present, on first principle, makes us concerned about the potential impact on vaccine effectiveness,” he said.
He clarified that there are “more things we don’t know yet” about the variant, but he expects to be more clear in three weeks.
MPs will debate and vote on new COVID restrictions in England on Tuesday, which include wearing face coverings in shops and public transport.
Many Tories are deeply saddened by the prospect of a return to controls – but the government’s backing of Labor’s measures makes the government’s defeat unlikely.
Meanwhile, England is the only UK nation where work from home is not encouraged.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reminded people on Monday to “work from home if possible”.
The advice is similar in Northern Ireland, and in Wales the current guidance encourages work from home.
On Monday, the prime minister’s spokesman said it was up to employers to strike the “right balance” for them when it comes to whether employees work from home or from the office.
Jurisdiction over coronavirus restrictions has evolved, meaning Mr Johnson’s policies apply to England, and may differ from rules elsewhere in the UK.
Mr Johnson is expected to visit a GP surgery on Tuesday where people are getting booster jabs.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /